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And now, the innocent verdict!

Congratulations, Michael!

Editorial: November, 2003

I remember clearly when Michael Jackson went on television back in 1993 to express his outrage at the invasion of his privacy when police had raided his home and taken pictures of his private parts. During the build-up for this trial, we heard that dozens of cops and cars invaded Neverland and took away boxes and boxes of Michael's private property. Now, even though a jury has cleared his name, he cannot escape back to a private home without being continually reminded of the material they have stolen from him, passed around and laughed at him.

Michael Jackson, among the other horrors he has experienced at the hands of Tom Sneddon, has been the victim of a home invasion.

There are many of us who can sympathize -- people who have had bad warrants executed on their homes to search for drugs or paraphernalia. Personally I had my pepers taken, not returned and my files upset to the point I have never recovered and I no longer write my friends' names and addresses into a book. Once the privacy you thought was protected by the state has been invaded and despoiled by that same state, trust is forever lost.

So Michael Jackson is part of a "club" of people who know what it is like to be raided.

I am so glad that he is not going to have to join that other "club" of which I am a member: those who have done time. No matter how well you handle it, you are forever changed by the deliberate dehumanization of prisons: those who take you into custody often feel they are also responsible for punishing you. Your punishment is loss of freedom, but often they feel they have not done their job unless they have robbed you of your dignity as well.

Michael, be free and be careful. Those who would steal your stuff and take your freedom hold grudges for a very long time.
--Sheila Steele, June 13, 2005


Waiting for the verdict in the Michael Jackson case

Henry Darger illustration

A word on Michael Jackson: Watching his distraught father and listening to all the rude and crude commentary, I hang my head for the human race. This case has seen a lot of people deny their very humanity. Over and over I hear the soundbite "What is a 35 year old man doing with a child in his bed?" said as though the only possible thing which happens in a bed is sexual molestation. That is how sick this society is.

Michael Jackson, who is idolized by millions worldwide, has cultivated a child-view of the world. He is very clear: adults have betrayed him and he doesn't want to turn into a betrayer. He had the means to create Neverland and bring joy to children. He told his rabbi friend that he would die if he could not be in the company of children.

I think a lot of children will be damaged if Michael Jackson is found guilty of any of the charges which have been levelled against him. The social climate where children learn that although they need hugs and love, they have the power to turn on those who love and touch them and have them put in jail is resulting in a tyranny of mischief which has gone completely mad as truly malicious prosecutors and cops use these confused young people to advance their own hideous agendas. Yes, Tom Sneddon is a cold, cold man.

I'm really sorry Michael did not have enough of a sense of humour to appreciate Eminem's light-hearted commentary on the Encore album.

Michael, understand that there are many people in this world who love children and know that it is not a crime to love them and be physically affectiionate. I think the head-licking is particularly amusing because I used to be a big licker of my children when they were small.

My friend Doug took me to see a movie last week, "The realm of the unreal," about a man who, throughout his 79 year long life, wrote an 19,000 page novel and created tousands of illustrations based on a world where innocent children were pitted against evil adults. Many of the depictions were of naked children. His friends and neighbours, who knew little of the man, helped provide the material so a movie could be made about his vision of the world.

How I wished that this film could be shown to Michael Jackson's jury. Henry Darger would have been locked up as a pedophile for sure if Tom Sneddon had got a sniff of him. (from the front page).


The inquisition and crucifixion of Michael Jackson

Runaway Train coming down the tracks?

Michael Jackson and Mark Garagos

The highlight of my television watching week was Robert Blake's acquittal. The reaction of several court commentators was surprise. He's weird so he must be guilty, they said in one way or another. What they don't understand is that Robert Blake is one of us, not one of them. He has gone to the edges of the human psyche to express for all of us those weird parts that we are too embarrassed or fearful to express ourselves. Including revulsion at women who use pregnancy as a trap.

Judging from all the jokes, we are not nearly so tolerant of Michael Jackson's weirdness. The unexamined aspects of the eternal youth or Peter Pan -- which Jackson was attempting to communicate with the Bashir tape -- was twisted by a community backlash driven by fear of difference. Among the shrill reportage I heard the name of Roland Summitt raised as an expert in sussing out pedophiles. We should expect to hear the name Kee MacFarlane shortly. These two were experts for the prosecution in several witch hunting trials during the eighties and early nineties. Notably the McMartin day care case which was, at the time, the most expensive court case in California history. It took may years to determine that the convictions were based on hysterical testimony; the "children never lie" folks continue to claim the overturning of the convictions was the real injustice.

Remember, these trials had children testifying to being molested in tunnels which did not exist, being flown in helicopters with ice cream during nap time. In the Klassen-Kvello trials in Saskatoon, we heard testimony from children who claimed those they accused would have "swearing parties." These parties were comprised of people sitting around in a circle and taking turns saying swear words. This is exactly what an adolescent boy thinks of as really, really bad. We have heard testimony from the Aviso children along similar lines. In the Klassen Kvello case, the swearing parties led to blood-drinking parties -- which would, of course, lead to Satanic ritual abuse. Now that Satanic Ritual abuse has been so thoroughly discrediited, we find the Avisos imaginations are not allowed to run quite as wild.

Michael Jackson took the idea that as an American he could live out the capitalist dream. Make lots of money, build Neverland, maintain a career based on remaining forever young. There is nothing wrong with Jackson's dream. He was sadly mistaken to think that flashy non-conformity would be tolerated. The records on which he made his millions were stamped out in a factory, millions of identical disks. As individuals in a society which produces our cultural artifacts as records, films and concerts with precise boundaries and conventions, we are also expected to live within boundaries and conventions.

Those who oppose this ostracization of Michael Jackson from the community to which he has contributed much must find a way to communicate this opposition in a way that will reach fearful middle America. The jury has not yet gone out.

Anyone who suggests that Gavin Arvizo and his family are not capable of carrying off a scam of great magnitude and serious sophistication hasn't been to a used car lot recently. The stakes are high. They have been rehearsed and rehearsed. The god who brought the boy his cancer and allegedly guides his life has a helluva sense of humour. Or he has been drinking too much jeezus juice.
-- Sheila Steele, March 18, 2005


Shutting down Witch Hunting therapists

If we can't shut them down we can at least relegate them to quack status where they belong

The ubiquitous coverage of the crucifixion of Michael Jackson has brought all the self righteous quacks with access to the media back into the spotlight. Or so it would seem.

There have been pundits who have referred to the McMartin day care case of twenty years ago -- not as a miscarriage of justice against the people whose lives were destroyed, but as the failure of a fledgling "science" which has now matured. Now, with a couple of clues intuited from interviews he has given, and a whole lot of malice, these seasoned network experts and social workers are able to determine that Michael Jackson is a pedophile. It looks like junk science is alive and well in California. The witch-hunters are still around and some of them are the same people.

It occurred to me that maybe the reason Carol Bunko-Ruys wasn't present at her trial was because she had gone to California to practice her craft. On a cancer patient who, after accepting the generous hospitality of Michael Jackson now needed to close his eyes and think real hard . . .

I have heard some extraordinary comments on TV the last few days. People claiming to be horrified that any child would be allowed in a bed with a grown man. Has our culture beome so sexualized that it is forgotten that many people use their beds to sleep? Or even pile in together and watch TV?

The vitriol expressed against Michael Jackson is terrifying. He grew up in a show business family. He is a show biz person. He has made a lot of money and lives his life differently from some who have a lot of money but choose to spend it differently. But his life style and career persona are being cited as evidence of criminality. Santa Barbara prosecutor Tom Sneddon's sneering remarks when he announced that a warrant had been issued for Jackson, while being coy about what formed the basis for the child molestation charges, sounded to be like his interest was in something different than the administration of justice.

Jackson's attorney, Mark Garagos is aggressively defending his client. Jackson has a website. He says: Lies run sprints but the truth runs marathons. The truth will win this marathon in court.
--Sheila Steele, November 20, 2003


Suit filed against Jackson over alleged 1984 assault

NEW YORK - A 38-year-old Louisiana man has sued pop star Michael Jackson for allegedly sexually assaulting him 20 years ago, a TV show reported Thursday.

Joseph Bartucci Jr. reportedly recovered a "repressed memory" of the alleged crime after seeing a TV program about the current sexual assault charges against Jackson, the suit says.

Bartucci says he was 18 when Jackson "held him against his will" and sexually assaulted him in May 1984, according to legal papers obtained by "Celebrity Justice."

The assaults took place in Jackson's limousine in Louisiana and in a building in California, according to the suit filed Nov. 1 in U.S. District Court in Louisiana.

Jackson allegedly performed oral sex on Bartucci and tried to force Bartucci to reciprocate, but he refused, the suit says. The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages.

Bartucci's lawyers could not be reached for comment.

Jackson lawyer Thomas Mesereau also could not be reached for comment, but in the past he has said that Jackson is a target for bogus, money-seeking lawsuits.

One legal expert said the suit may be on shaky ground because 20 years has passed since the alleged incident.

"I think there would be questions about credibility because of the timing," said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson.


Jackson Pleads Not Guilty to Molestation Charges

SANTA MARIA, CA - Michael Jackson appeared in a court here today to answer charges of child molestation, as a virtual circus of fans, reporters and television crews from around the world waited and jostled one another outside. Many had been camped out overnight.

The pop star's arrival outside the courthouse, at about 8:40 a.m. Pacific time, was 10 minutes later than scheduled. Members of Mr. Jackson's family, including his father, as well as his defense team, had already shown up when the sports utility vehicle bearing the singer arrived.

Mr. Jackson stayed inside his vehicle for several minutes as a swarm of police officers, security guards and sheriff's deputies tried with difficulty to keep the boisterous crowd from rushing the vehicle.

When he finally emerged under a black umbrella to shade him from the sun, and wearing large sunglasses, he waved and shook hands with members of the crowd.

He walked slowly into the courthouse with his sister Janet, who is also a singer, arriving a total of 20 minutes late, which brought a sharp warning from Judge Rodney S. Melville of Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

"Mr. Jackson, you have started out on the wrong foot here," Judge Melville said, The Associated Press reported. "I want to advise you that I will not put up with that. It's an insult to the court."

The judge set a pretrial hearing for Feb. 13.

Mr. Jackson's appearance took only five minutes, but he did not emerge from the courthouse until about two and a half hours later, after a much longer hearing on a number of legal issues surrounding the case. The judge said he would rule later on a limited order barring Mr. Jackson and his lawyers from discussing the case with the press. But he stuck to his decision not to release the contents of a search warrant issued in the case, a decision that had been appealed by the news media.

The pop star was accompanied out of the court by his mother, Katherine, and his sister Janet. Other family members, including his brother Jermaine, were with him during the court hearing.

Excited fans cheered and jumped in an attempt to see the pop star, as he left the courthouse and made his way to his vehicle. When he reached it, he climbed on top and waved, accompanied by two photographers. Again, security officials were hard-pressed to keep the fans from pushing their way toward the singer.

At the scene, the co-counsel, Mr. Brafman, told CNN that the display of emotion was "an unprecedented outpouring of love for Michael Jackson," adding, "I have never seen anything like this."

Asked about the pop star's behavior, Mr. Brafman said, "There is no rule book how a Michael Jackson, entertainer, performs, and these people came thousands of miles to see Michael Jackson."

Busloads of fans arrived from Los Angeles and Las Vegas before the proceedings, adding to a group of 100 to 150 people who were already on hand early today; many waved placards and wore T-shirts declaring his innocence.

Other fans drove in their own cars from Fresno, Phoenix, Las Vegas and elsewhere, bringing the number to several hundred.

There were shouts of "Michael, we love you!" and also "Michael is innocent!" as the pop star slowly made his way into the building.

"We want him to see that he has support," said Kristie Dixon, 20, who drove to California from her home in Charleston, S.C., for the occasion. "If you dig deep enough into what happened you will see that he is innocent."

Supporters held candlelight vigils outside the court through the night on Thursday.

Santa Maria is a short drive from Mr. Jackson's longtime residence, the Neverland ranch, near Santa Barbara. After the charges were brought against him on Dec. 18, he temporarily moved to Beverly Hills, presumably in an effort to escape the news media's attention.

Today, however, he made the trip to Santa Maria from the ranch.

He pleaded not guilty to seven counts of child molesting involving a boy who was an overnight guest at the Neverland ranch in February and March.

The Santa Barbara prosecutor, Thomas W. Sneddon Jr., also charged Mr. Jackson with two counts of giving the boy, a former cancer patient who is now 14, an "intoxicating agent" before molesting him. The charge, a felony, refers to alcohol or drugs.

The felony child-molesting charges alone could bring a 20-year prison sentence if Mr. Jackson is found guilty.

Mr. Jackson's defense team expanded on Thursday with the addition of a New York lawyer, Benjamin Brafman. Mr. Jackson's lead lawyer, Mark Geragos, said Mr. Brafman would act as "co-lead counsel" and would appear with him at today's arraignment.

Mr. Jackson, family members and Mr. Geragos have adamantly denied the charges. Mr. Geragos, who has said Mr. Jackson will contest the charges "with every fiber of his soul," said the charges were "driven by two things: money and revenge."

A decade ago, Mr. Sneddon sought to prosecute Mr. Jackson on child-molesting charges involving a 13-year-old boy. But the child's family signed a multimillion-dollar civil settlement and dropped their complaint before criminal charges could be brought. Mr. Sneddon has repeatedly denied that he is pursuing a vendetta against Mr. Jackson.

He has also said that he will not lead the prosecution team, that the family was not in it for the money and that boy would testify at trial.

In a confidential memo leaked to the news media in December, it was revealed that from Feb. 14 through Feb. 27, the Los Angeles Department of Child and Family Services conducted a preliminary investigation of the boy's relationship with Mr. Jackson and concluded that charges of illicit conduct were unfounded.

According to the charging document, the illegal acts took place between Feb. 7 and March 10.

The family services investigation began after a British documentary showed the boy holding hands with the pop star and saying he often slept in Mr. Jackson's bed while Mr. Jackson slept on the floor.

Mr. Jackson acknowledged in the film that he at times shared a bed with children, calling it an innocent and loving act. An official from the boy's school who saw the documentary telephoned an abuse line, resulting in the inquiry, according to the memorandum.

Mr. Sneddon has said the memo would have no effect on the case.

In an appearance on the CBS News program "60 Minutes" on Dec. 28, Mr. Jackson said, "Before I would hurt a child, I would slit my wrists."

He also said he still believed it was acceptable to sleep with children.

Nick Madigan contributed reporting for this article from Santa Maria, Calif., and Terence Neilan contributed reporting from New York.


Memo Could Boost Jacko's Defense

Los Angeles police and child welfare officials earlier this year cleared pop singer Michael Jackson of allegations that he sexually abused a cancer-stricken boy, according to a confidential government memo.

The internal memo, obtained by The Smoking Gun Web site, says a confidential investigation found that the allegations against Jackson were "unfounded," months before Jackson was arrested on molestation charges.

The self-proclaimed "King Of Pop" surrendered to Santa Barbara County authorities Nov. 20 after an arrest warrant alleged he committed lewd or lascivious acts with the boy. He was released on $3 million bail, and authorities said they expect to file formal charges the week of Dec. 15. He has denied the allegations.

According to the Nov. 26 memo, the child was interviewed in February by a social worker assigned to the Sensitive Case Unit of L.A.'s Department of Children & Family Services and "denied any form of sexual abuse" by Jackson and said he never "slept in the same bed as the entertainer."

Jackson is never specifically named in the memo, and is instead referred to as "the entertainer."

The Jackson abuse case resulted from an investigation that was launched in response to a complaint filed by an official from the Los Angeles Unified School District, the memo states.

The memo indicated that the school official suspected the boy was being neglected by his mother and sexually abused by "the entertainer."

According to the memo, the boy's 12-year-old brother also denied sexual abuse. Their sister told investigators that she accompanied her brothers on sleepovers to Jackson's Neverland Ranch, but had "never seen anything sexually inappropriate between her brothers and the entertainer."

While acknowledging that her son "has slept in the same room as the entertainer," the boy's mother told investigators "they did not share a bed," adding that the entertainer would sleep on the floor.

According to The Smoking Gun, the joint probe by DCFS and the Los Angeles Police Department ran from February 14-27 and, the memo states, the investigation, "concluded the allegations of neglect and sexual abuse to be unfounded both by the LAPD-Wilshire Division and the Department."

It is unclear how the Smoking Gun obtained the government document.


Michael Jackson's accuser is a reluctant witness

Michael and Gavin Arvizo

NEW YORK: Here's some more good news for Michael Jackson. As the pop superstar prepares to battle child molestation charges in court - his 12-year-old accuser is a reluctant witness.

According to rate the music.com, Harvey Levin, the producer of American TV's Celebrity Justice who broke the latest scandal in America, claims young Gavin Arvizo is not the willing witness, the prosecution first thought he was.

"This boy told a therapist that Michael Jackson fondled him in his private parts, but he's a very reluctant witness. He did not come out and spill his guts about what allegedly happened between him and Michael Jackson," Levin said.

"We're told it literally had to be pulled out of him, first by attorney Larry Feldman and then by a therapist, who ultimately got the story from the boy," he added.


US blacks support Michael Jackson in a time of crisis

"He can't change that he's black. He's black whether or not he wanted to get rid of the black nose." --Audrey Martin, 58-year-old Jackson supporter

His once broad nose has been surgically whittled to the size of a pencil. His formerly brown skin is now off-white. His woolly afro has been replaced by a sleek, straightened 'do.

Michael Jackson's physical transformation -- along with his two marriages to white women -- has led to questions about his standing in the black community. But since his arrest on child molestation charges, some blacks have reacted as if a family member were in handcuffs.

Even though Jackson and some other black stars "seem like they hang around with white folks all the time, even though they distance themselves from us seemingly, at the end of the day, we still claim them," says Jamie Foster Brown, publisher of the celebrity monthly magazine Sister 2 Sister . "Because when black people get in trouble, white people tend to look at the whole race anyway."

Jackson certainly has plenty of black detractors, as well as non-black supporters like his friend Elizabeth Taylor. But judging by the response to his arrest from chat rooms, radio broadcasts and man-on-the-street conversations, there is more willingness in the black community to give Jackson the benefit of the doubt.

"I did a vigil," said Audrey Martin, a 58-year-old retired home-care attendant from Fairfield, California. "He can't change that he's black. He's black whether or not he wanted to get rid of the black nose."

"African-Americans have had an extremely negative experience with the criminal justice system," says Roland Martin, founder and editor of the Web site BlackAmericaToday.com. "We more than anybody else believe in innocent until proven guilty."

There has been a tinge of suspicion that the allegations against Jackson are about more than child abuse. Jermaine Jackson likened his brother's arrest to a "lynching."

It's a sentiment similar to when football star O.J. Simpson was charged with murder, boxer Mike Tyson was convicted of rape, and even as basketball star Kobe Bryant's rape case proceeds.

"That's the first thing [blacks] say -- the same thing with O.J. -- they're trying to bring down a black man," says Brown. "There is a reason for that, because there's always been lynching, be it physical or otherwise, since slavery."

Fueling such beliefs are factors such as Jackson's home being raided on the same day his greatest hits album "Number Ones" was released, and the jovial demeanor of Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon as he announced the charges (Sneddon later apologized).

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said the arrest was so "impeccably timed that it leads to even more suspicions. ... It seems aimed to destroy this media mogul."

He also questioned whether the singer was being treated more harshly than other celebrities -- namely white ones.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Jackson noted that the bail in record producer Phil Spector's murder case was US$1 million while Jackson's was US$3 million, and questioned why there was no massive televised raid on radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh's home when reports surfaced that he had bought illegal drugs.

Evoking the cases of other black male celebrities who have been charged with crimes, he said: "One gets a sense that there is an emerging pattern here, and these high profile blacks who perhaps think they are the exception are maybe the example after all."


Legal Secretary in Old Case Says Jacko Was Framed

A legal secretary who was peripherally involved in the first child molestation case concerning Michael Jackson says he was framed.

Geraldine Hughes worked for attorney Barry Rothman in 1993. Rothman represented dentist Evan Chandler (search) in his divorce from his wife, June. Hughes said allegations against Jackson of child molestation arose from a bitter custody dispute between the Chandlers over their then 12-year-old son.

Soon, Hughes is publishing a book of her observations called "Redemption: The Truth Behind the Michael Jackson Allegations." The book was scheduled for released in January 2004 by tiny Virginia-based Branch and Vine Publications long before the current scandal broke in the news.

Hughes, who kept a daily-annotated calendar during her time with Rothman, told me today in an exclusive interview that among her revelations is the story of a memo between the attorney and Chandler.

"Rothman advised the father how to report child abuse via a third party rather than going directly to the police," she said. "If it were any other case, you'd just pick up the phone and call the police."

Hughes said that while she was still working for Rothman, she and her mother contacted and subsequently visited private investigator Anthony Pellicano, and told him what was going on between Rothman and Chandler. (Pellicano is currently in prison for possessing explosives and is under investigation for illegal wire-tapping.)

"He thanked me for the information but he said they were gathering evidence to go to trial," Hughes said. "He said I could be called as a witness."

But no trial ever occurred, as Jackson wound up paying a reported settlement of $20 million to the Chandlers.

Hughes - who was fired by Rothman after about six months - claimed the plan to involve Jackson in the Chandlers' divorce was an "elaborate" one. "You've got to see the whole plan," she said. She claimed, for example, that almost none of the Chandler case was recorded, that very little correspondence exists and that most everything transpired behind closed doors with no secretary present to take notes.

Nevertheless, a pattern of unusual activities emerged in the case, she said.

"I was surprised one day to see the boy in a closed-door session with Rothman with no adult present," she recalled. "That was very unusual too."

Hughes also said that even though she was working closely with Rothman, she didn't know Jackson was being accused of child molestation until she heard it on TV during an office lunch break. Until then, correspondence about Jackson in the Chandler divorce had been limited to June Chandler's desire to take her kids out of the U.S. with Jackson on tour.

Rothman, in a telephone call, confirmed for me that Hughes did work for him at one time, but that "she was privy to nothing in our office. She may also be in violation of attorney-client privilege," he said, adding that he would read her book when it came out in January and that he wished her luck with it. As for the closed-door meetings, he agreed that the Chandler case did have little correspondence in the file. "It was mostly meetings," he said. "And I take my own notes, I never have a secretary do it."